Lies Musical Theatre Told Me: For God’s Sake John Sit Down!

Welcome back to Lies Musical Theatre Told Me! This is one that I think about frequently this time of year.

With the exception of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson The Continental Congress was a bunch of indecisive idiots (and they were ALL super horny)

The culprit here is of course the amazing 1776.

We're waiting for the chirp, chirp, chirp, of an eaglet being born...

We’re waiting for the chirp, chirp, chirp, of an eaglet being born…

If you aren’t familiar, 1776 chronicles the week leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It’s insightful, funny, brilliant and, being that it’s a musical about the founding fathers, totally dorky.

I think it can go without saying that I love 1776. I love it because I love musicals, and I love American history, and I really love The Declaration of Independence. In my early American Lit course in college we read both the Declaration and the Constitution and analyzed them as non fiction literature and it was one of the best experiences of analysis I’ve ever had.

Anyway, my love affair with 1776 began when I was about twelve. Our local high school put on a production of the show, starring now almost famous Brad Weinstock as John Adams.

Brad, as Frankie Valli in the national tour of Jersey Boys, we're all very proud

Brad, as Frankie Valli in the national tour of Jersey Boys, we’re all very proud

I’m pretty sure that Brad was great, but I don’t really remember because my memories of that production are clouded by my friend Joe’s older brother Sean playing Richard Henry Lee. To be fair, “The Lees of Old Virginia,” is a big show stealing number, but Sean was consistently stealing shows from the other kids. The next year he stole Into The Woods from the boy playing The Baker, but that’s a different story.

I was transfixed by this odd little show, which only had a few songs and no women. Well, 2 women. I loved it in fact. I wanted to go right out to Sam Goody or Tower Records and buy the OBC Recording. I didn’t, but that’s only because my mom owned it on vinyl. Because I wasn’t yet a full blown theatre geek, I didn’t quite understand how cool it was that my mother owned a vinyl copy of the 1776 OBC Recording. I did understand how cool it was that William Daniels was the original John Adams.

That's young Mr. Feeney. That's why they went to John Adams High School. It's a joke. Get it?

That’s young Mr. Feeney. That’s why Corey and Co. went to John Adams High School. It’s a joke. Get it?

I also may be using the word “cool” incorrectly here. But I listened to the record over and over again. The reason that my mother owned this record was simple.

To celebrate the bicentenial in 1976, the parish my mom grew up in put on a production of 1776. My grandfather played Thomas Jefferson. Now, there’s a number, “But Mr. Adams,” that is basically John Adams trying to convince various members of the committee of five to write the Declaration of Independence. When he goes to Jefferson, who of course ends up writing it, (if you don’t know this go find your middle school social studies teacher and punch them in the face.) Jefferson simply says “Mr. Adams, leave me alone.” Here’s the thing though, the “alone” is on a high G and the entire phrase is belted. It’s incredibly difficult. So, when my Grampy would practice the song, while his five young children tried to sleep. He would reach that moment, this beautiful dramatic vocal fanfare and miss the note. Now messing up a note is not a big deal in rehearsal but can be quite frustrating. To vent said frustration, Grampy would shout, “God damnit Irene! (My grandmother) I can’t hit that note!” This is a little bit of family lore that my mother spins frequently and always giggles her way through it.

Anyway, this is all a prelude, because 1776, like so many other shows that I love is a big fat liar.

Lie #1, of course is that the congress was super lazy and petty. Except John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. The first half of the show is Adams imposing his will on the congress about Independence. He is labeled as “obnoxious and disliked” and no one agrees with him. But no one else even wants to talk about independence. Not John Hancock, no one, except Ben Franklin, and Richard Henry Lee, sort of. Obviously Adams wins and then America becomes a thing.

Here’s the main reason that 1776 decides that the reason the Declaration of Independence almost didn’t happen is because Thomas Jefferson wanted to go home and have sex with his wife.

This is an actual plot point. Thomas Jefferson is asking John Adams to leave him alone, so that he can go home and boink Martha Jefferson. This is resolved when Adams and Franklin bring Martha to Philadelphia, somehow, and then she and Tom have sex in the middle of the day and it’s very scandalous. This also leads to one of the best character songs in the history of theatre, “He Plays The Violin.” It also leads to a really boring duet between John and Abigail Adams where they sing about how they miss having sex.

That’s the only reason there are even women in the show at all. That’s why you don’t see many amateur productions of it anymore. No girl parts.

Katie and I fight about it yearly, because I want to put it on with our company Tom Foolery Theatre so badly it makes my head hurt, and we can’t, because Katie refuses to allow gender blind casting. (She is, by the way mostly right, and I mostly start these fights after a few drinks.) However, if you’re in Allendale, New Jersey tonight and you see a dark blond haired girl and a red haired girl marching drunkenly through the streets shouting, “SOMEONE GO AND OPEN UP A WINDOW!” “WELL FOR GOD’S SAKE JOHN SIT DOWN!” at the top of their lungs, that’s me and Katie.

Happy Fourth of July Everyone!


Lies Musical Theatre Told Me: The Cast of Jersey Boys is a band

Summer is coming on quickly, and I started thinking about my past summers. Usually, due to the fact that I have an abundance of free time on my hands, I wind up getting obsessed with something. You guys all saw last year’s obsession. The only other time I worked full time during a summer, I was socially isolated because I was commuting at weird times and couldn’t drink legally yet, so I still had a load of time on my hands, and wound up becoming obsessed with Twilight.

I'm not proud of it, OK?

I’m not proud of it, OK?

This year, I don’t know if the obsession with come, because I have a full time job and will be participating in a community theatre production. But of course, I got to thinking about some of my past obsessions. It’s weird when there’s a very visceral reaction to something from your past. The other day I was listening to the Beach Boys Pandora station I’d created, and had a major flashback.

This is not the forum to argue about Brian Wilson's genius. As if there was an argument.

This is not the forum to argue about Brian Wilson’s genius. As if there was an argument.

Anyway, “Sherry” came on. But not “Sherry” as performed by The Four Seasons, it was as performed by the original Broadway cast of Jersey Boys. If you weren’t a high school theater geek from New Jersey in 2006, then you might not fully grasp how deeply important Jersey Boys was. Of course it was kind of important in general for theater that year. It won the Tony after all, but I feel like it affected my friends in a very specific and deep way.

If you haven't gone to see it, you probably should. It's amazing.

If you haven’t gone to see it, you probably should. It’s amazing.

I didn’t know a single kid who had every done a show who wasn’t completely obsessed with the show and it’s young super talented cast that year. John Lloyd Young basically was Frankie Valli as far as we were concerned. The four guys performed on every talk show, and we watched every performance. They became their own phenomenon.

I immediately switched to my I-Pod and listened to the OBC Recording. Again, I can’t stress how ubiquitous this was that summer. I’m pretty sure I blared their version of “Dawn” with my top down over and over again. Not to mention the brilliant, “leaving” medley from act II, which includes, “Stay,” “Bye, Bye Baby (Baby Good bye),” “Let’s Hang On,” and others was the top play on my I-Tunes for a good month. My guy friends had their own version of “Sherry” that they burst in to at the slightest provocation.

While I was listening I started not exactly remember details from that summer, although I do remember sitting next to my mom watching the show and seeing the tears running down her cheeks during “Rag Doll,” (Long complicated story involving her younger brother…) but just some of the feelings. I was sitting in Central Park on my lunch break yesterday, and felt my own tears come out as I listened to “Who Loves You.”

Here’s the thing, I’ve been very lucky to be loved by and love amazing people in my life, and some of the people who I love the most, my relationships with them cemented that summer before I headed off to college. I’ve always been grateful for it. That song brings back that time. So I get emotional.

Anyway, if you were around that summer, if you were a part of my life and are now reading this. Thanks. It was a cool year, and it’s been cool to think about it for the past few days.

Also, I know this wasn’t formatted the same way as the other “Lies” posts, but it’s a different kind of thing.

Lies Musical Theatre Told Me Part 4: Light My Candle

It’s the triumphant return of Lies Musical Theatre Told Me!

This lie is a little bit different than the others, like the Patti Lupone one, it’s a culture thing, and it’s also the most fangirly of all of them:

Adam Pascal is a major heartthrob

You know who Adam Pascal is even if you don’t know who Adam Pascal is. Chances are you’ve seen School of Rock. You know the douchebag who kicks Jack Black out of his band in the beginning and then beats the kids at Battle of The Bands at the end? That’s Adam.

Of course if you’re a theatre geek in your 20’s, and you are attracted to men, you know more about Adam. You know that he is the angry sensitive bohemian HIV positive ex heroin addict singer songwriter we all wanted to fix. You know know that he’s the hard hearted Egyptian soldier/explorer who ends up choosing love over everything, even his life. He’s the selfish prick who alienates the woman he loves because of his own prejudices.

Also, if you’re anything like me, my sister and most of my friends you melt everytime you hear him hit the high notes.

You know the moments I’m talking about, when Adam’s voice goes up in it’s gorgeous gravelly tones and it’s raw and powerful.

“Let it be boys!”

“And why did I tell her this? A stranger I just met? I woman who I hardly know at all and will forget!”

“Go away! Just get out! Be someone else’s parasite!”

I’ve been very lucky, in that I’ve seen Adam in his two most iconic roles, I saw him as Radames in Aida when he went back to close the show. It was amazing. I still remember sitting in the balcony with my friend Ali, my sister Mary and Ali’s sister Jess, and all four of us literally screaming like Beatles fans when he took off his shirt and ordered Aida to bathe  him.

Also later, this happens. It's wonderful

Also later, this happens. It’s wonderful

My brother was also there. He did not squeal, but he did make fun of us a lot. So that’s almost the same.

Then I saw him as Roger, when for six glorious weeks he and Anthony Rapp (the original Mark) went back to Rent on Broadway. If you’re the kind of person who’s attracted to singers, you haven’t known what that really means until you’ve watched these two men wail out “What You Own” or listened to Adam come in on “Another Day.” It’s phenomenal.

Beautiful, Beautiful Angst!

Beautiful, Beautiful Angst!

It was incredible. I was even more in love.

I also wanted him to light my candle, if you know what I’m saying. (I had to, I’m sorry, it’s a bad joke. I couldn’t come up with anything regarding having the best ass below 14th street or handcuffs, I tried.)

Then came Chess. I’d loved the music from Chess for a long time. Then one day, I stumbled upon a full YouTube video of a London concert version starring Idina Menzel, Josh Groban and Adam Pascal! It was wonderful, I watched it like a million times. Adam is sexy as hell and can sing like a mofo, but he’s not the best actor, generally his performance range from angry to sad to slightly amused. Next to Josh Groban, he looked like Laurence Olivier, and the contrasting tones of their voices were incredible. (Josh’s soaring opera vocals clash beautifully with Adam’s rough rock and roll sounds.)

Adam in a white suit! WHITE SUIT!

Adam in a white suit! Don’t you just melt?

I didn’t see him in Memphis and I still hate myself for it. A few weeks ago, Mary and I were talking about how she wants to watch Rent with her boyfriend (He also played Roger in the movie version), and somehow the entire conversation devolved in to us talking about how sexy he was.

Mary insists she doesn’t “squee” but I was there that night we saw Aida, there was definite squeeing happening. It was my first real full on fangirl moment.

When I reached out to friends to see if they had any Adam stories to share, my friend Matt answered with simply, “I met him sophomore year. We bro’ed out. I shit you not.” You understand, how important that caveat is? Also, Matt just became like, ten times more attractive to me. (Just kidding, kind of…)

The best thing, though, from a theatre geek perspective, is that Adam is our guy. He’s never really gone mainstream, so we’ve never had to share him. The mainstream took and shattered our other heart throbs, poor Matt Morrison became the biggest joke of the joke that is Glee, Patrick Wilson has been knocking on the mainstream door for so long that you can’t help but pity him. But not Adam Pascal. Adam is ours, even if most of the world doesn’t know who he is.

So he’s not a major heartthrob, that was a lie that musical theatre told us. But he’s our heartthrob, and that’s the most important part.

Lies Musical Theatre Told Me Part 3: 10 Minutes Ago

It’s the return of Lies Musical Theatre Told Me!

And this one’s a doozy

When you lock eyes with a stranger in a crowded room, they are your soulmate

This is one that so very many musicals are guilty of, I barely know where to begin, but I will begin with one show in particular. My obsession with musical theatre has gone very far in my life. In particular, my friends from high school and I have started our own community theatre, TomFoolery Theatre, because we all missed doing shows together. This weekend, our annual production goes up. A little piece of off Broadway gold called, Zombie Prom.

Zombie Prom can’t really be called out on the lie, because it’s a spoof. But when the leads, “bad boy” Jonny Warner (Jonny’s big rebellion is removing the “h” from his name) and “good girl” Toffee see each other across the lunch room, they launch in to a duet, “One Moment With You,” and that’s it, it’s fate, they’re madly in love forever. Until Toffee’s parents and their principal convince her to break up with him, and then he rides his motorcycle in to a nuclear waste sight and comes back as a mutant zombie (it’s a weird show, but if you live in the northern New Jersey area and you’re around you should check it out!)

But just about every musical is guilty of this. I took the title of this post from one of my favorite songs, “Ten Minutes Ago,” the waltz from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Tony and Maria do it in ballet form in West Side Story, even more modern musicals like Rent provide lovers Mimi and Roger with a whole song before he’s inspired to leave his apartment for the first time in a year, due to her.

Look, this lie, in particular is hard for me, because it sets off the fangirl panic. “Oh my God, I didn’t give that guy who smiled at me at the bar my number, I didn’t even talk to him, but we had a moment, so he’s the love of my life and I never even met him, and we didn’t sing a tender love duet, or anything!” (Guys, my head is a really, really weird place.)

Basically, for this one, I’m calling Mr. Richard Rodgers and Mr. Oscar Hammerstein, because they wrote so many of these song, “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Shall We Dance,” “If I Loved You,” (Although that’s from the horrible Carousel). Sirs, I do not think it was particularly kind of you to do that to women. I’m just saying.

Also come see Zombie Prom ! Please, it’s for charity!


Lies Musical Theatre Told Me Part 2: Patti Lupone Made Me Do It

Did you expect less from me on Tony night?

Sometime, when musical theatre lies, it isn’t about a grand soaring idea, it’s just about the way you see the world. This is because when you’re interested in musical theatre, chances are you don’t spend a whole lot of time around people who are interested in musical theatre and it begins to consume your life and thought process. And as a result, you see things, people, everything in ways that are different than the way the rest of the world does. Or in this case, you see certain people differently than others do. For example, I spend a whole lot of time trying to reconcile the real world with the view that:

Patti Lupone is the most powerful woman to ever live

In case you’re completely unfamiliar with musical theatre (or at least had your awakening sometime in the Rent, Chicago, High School Musical time frame) Patti Lupone is one of the grande dame musical theatre divas. After being a member of the inaugural class of Juliard’s acting school, and then a founding member of “The Acting Troupe” she went on to star in some of the most amazing roles in musical theatre history, she played Eva Peron in Evita, Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, Fantine in Les Mis, Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, and of course the mother of all female Broadway roles, Mama Rose in Gypsy.

La Lupone is a polarizing figure. People love her, they hate her, they love to hater her. I’m in the first camp. I love Patti more than is probably healthy. My obsession with Patti Lupone is one of those things that my mother gave to me, however inadvertently. See, my mom saw her in Les Miserables in London in the late 80’s. She was pregnant with me. The way she says it, she was spoiled by seeing that brilliant original cast. When “I Dreamed a Dream” gets stuck in my head, it’s LuPone’s voice that I hear. “I Dreamed a Dream” was one of those songs that made me want to sing, and it was her version that did it.

When I was 16 I was smug little feminist, and there were certain songs that I absolutely refused to sing because I felt they, and the shows they went along with promoted violence and horrifying attitudes towards women (it’s another post all together, that one) but the one exception was “As Long As He Needs Me” from Oliver.  How do you ask, did my voice teach get me to compromise on this one, “You know, Reenie, Patti Lupone played Nancy.” It was over, I would compromise any and all principals if I could even touch her shadow.

Speaking of touching her shadow, my mother once almost refused to go see Sunset Boulevard on Broadway because it was starring Glen Close instead of Patti she was fired in a most controversial way), and she stated “I’m not going to pay good money to see Glen Close approximate Patti Lupone!” She ended up going, but she saw Betty Buckley (who I guess was an acceptable substitute). See, this one was given to me by my mother.

Here’s the weird part…I’ve never seen the woman perform live. Not once. I wasn’t born for Evita, Les Miserables, or Anything Goes. I was too young for a lot of her prolific work in the 90s, and was living in Pennsylvania for college during Sweeney Todd and Gypsy, and couldn’t get anyone to go see her and Mandy Patinkin together in their showcase this past winter.

And yet I’m transfixed by her. My friend Katie and I take posed pictures with “Evita Arms” anywhere we deem appropriate (hotel balconies tend to be the winner) and just tonight, I put myself in to hysterics watching her sing five lines with Neil Patrick Harris on the Tonys, and squeeed with fangirly glee as she and Mandy framed the words, “there’s nothing more we can think of to say to you.”

But as it turns out, the world at large does not care much at all about Patti Lupone. She’s a minor star, everywhere but the Great White Way.

But let’s just face it, the truth, she’ll never leave us. And that’s how we want it.

Lies Musical Theatre Told Me Part 1: Vive La France!

I’ve spent a lot of time around musicals in my life. As a result of that, I’ve internalized a few things.  The problem that I’ve found is that some of the things that I, or at least my subconscious thought were facts, are actually, kind of bullshit. And when I look back on them, so many of them are musical theatre’s fault. So I’ve decided I’m going to do a series of posts about the kind of lies I’ve internalized based on those ideas. The first one being:

French people sing all the time

There are about twenty five million musicals that take place in France. Seriously, Cole Porter alone wrote like seventeen of them. Then you factor in the more modern things, like Les Miserables, Phantom of The Opera, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Sunday in The Park With George. Then you add in the movie musicals, like Gigi, An American in Paris. Basically it adds up to one thing, the French must sing like, all the time right? Apparently they don’t. Apparently, like most other peoples of the planet earth, the French do not walk around in large well-choreographed production numbers. I find this utterly heart breaking. Because all of these shows that I love LIED to my FACE.

Les Mis is the main culprit in this, to be honest. Somehow, the Paris student uprising of 1832, known as the “June Rebellion” should be epically scored. And it should be amazing. Honestly, I truly believe that if I got in to the TARDIS and went back to June 1832, I would see students running through the streets, distributing fliers and shouting that “the beating of their hearts echo the beating of the drums.” It just feels so real.

Of course what actually happened that June was that a few fires were set and barricades erected and everyone (except Victor Hugo) promptly forgot anything happened.

The Phantom of The Opera gets sort of an exemption because it’s about an Opera house, and if there’s something that I’ve learned in all of my years of theatre geekdom is that performers love to sing randomly. Seriously, my friends and I have been known to stage numbers everywhere from dorm rooms to diners.

The Scarlet Pimpernel gets exception because it’s awful and I’ve only ever met one person who likes it. So it doesn’t get much attention. I do love that book though.

And finally, last but certainly not least is Sunday in The Park with George. I love this show, although I’ve never even seen it. Because unlike the others I’ve listed here, Sunday is not an epic, nor does it take place in the 20’s. It’s an avante garde Sondheim musical about the nature of art, and family, and love. It’s also amazing. So if even an impressionist painter, Georges Seurat and his 20th century fictional descendant George sing constantly surely all of the French do.

Unfortunately they do not…

It really is unfortunate.